NEW YORK — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meetings Sunday with US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be closed to the press.
Netanyahu will meet Trump Sunday morning local time, followed by a meeting with Clinton in the afternoon. He is expected to head back to Israel in the evening.
Netanyahu was in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly’s 71st session on Thursday. He met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, likely the last meeting between the two feuding leaders before Obama leaves office in January. Netanyahu met with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday.
The meetings with the rival nominees, who are running neck-and-neck according to recent polls, come one day before the two are set to lock horns in the first televised presidential debate of the campaign, to be held at New York’s Hofstra University.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed Friday night that the meetings will take place, as did the Clinton campaign. The Trump campaign followed suit hours later.
According to Israeli sources, the meetings were set up after the Trump campaign spoke to Netanyahu’s staff on Friday. Netanyahu’s office then reached out to the Clinton campaign in a bid to avoid the appearance of favoring the GOP candidate.
A senior Israeli official in New York said Thursday that neither Clinton nor Trump had asked to meet with Netanyahu, according to a Bloomberg report.
The official told Bloomberg that Netanyahu has so far avoided meeting either candidate to avoid accusations made during the 2012 presidential campaign that he was interfering in US politics.
Netanyahu was widely seen as favoring then Republican nominee Mitt Romney, hosting him in Jerusalem just three months before the vote. However, Netanyahu’s advisers noted that Israel hosted then-candidate Barack Obama with similar warmth in 2008, when Ehud Olmert was prime minister.
A senior Israeli official told Israeli journalists on Wednesday that Netanyahu was nevertheless “open” to meeting the candidates.